Clutter is something that British homes do very well. Country cottages in particular are typically decorated with abundance, full of inherited or second hand pieces that appear too eclectic to be intentional yet too stylish to be accidental.
If they look aimlessly thrown together, these homes have in fact been lovingly decorated over many years, by owners who have a masterful grasp of how to mix colour and pattern, and the importance of scale and placement.
While clutter has been around since the dawn of things, TikTok’s ‘cluttercore’ emerged in recent years as a very Gen Z interpretation – it is intentionally chaotic and unruly and sentimental in expression, advocating for homely interiors that cocoon us in happy moments.
“We are a product of the spaces we inhabit,” says interior designer, Naomi Astley Clarke, “so ensuring that you are surrounded by beauty and the things you love is crucial in making a home you can connect to and cherish. Be it an inherited teapot collection or a particular artist you admire – surround yourself by objects that represent you and your interests.”
Here, we share a glimpse into some of the stylish and eclectic homes we have been welcomed into, as well as design tips and decorating advice for achieving an eclectic home full of things.
Mismatched but meaningful
Decorating with lots of objects doesn’t romanticise mess so much as extol the virtues of displaying your most treasured and much-loved pieces. When you have a lot on display, you don’t want to tire of it all, so use meaningful pieces rather than something acquired aimlessly to fill a space.
“Curating an eclectic space requires the careful selection of a small number of beloved items rather than accumulating lots of random things,” says Naomi. “Start off by picking the most special and sentimental objects you have and work from there. Think about connections – be it colour, texture, shape – between things and let that be how you shape the space.”
Placement, first and foremost
Your collection of objects should accrue around your furniture, and not in its place. There is little use in a fabulous antique floor lamp if it takes the spot of a much-needed armchair, and having to remove vases and books and trinkets from a desk every time it’s used will become bothersome.
Well-executed clutter should never detract from the function of a room, (but it needn’t add to it, either.) It is there for its warmth and exuberance and personality, not to get in the way.
Clusters and collections
It can be useful to group similar objects together to create little visual pockets in your home. Dotting ten wicker baskets around a room might look like you’ve become totally carried away, but piling them all together in a corner or a disused fireplace looks intentional and interesting.
This is a handy design device if you love collecting specific objects – colourful glassware, old portraits, antique mirrors and so on. “Never stop searching, always give in to your curiosity and if you love something, bring it home,” says award-winning interior designer, Matthew Williamson. “This is invariably a slower method of finding what you need, but once you have it, you’ll love it forever.
“I’m a firm believer that interior design is a life-long process. It’s about the journey and the thrill of finding something you love, and that never has to stop because you feel your home is ‘done’ once the pictures are hung and you’ve chosen your furniture.”
Use threads of colour
An eclectic room that looks stylish and well put together is usually executed with a pretty masterful grasp of colour.
A common misconception here is that a busy space should stick to two or three colours, but having so many layers and elements in such a limited palette can take away much of the spontaneity and sense of abundance that we’re after.
Instead, you should make sure there are two or three recurring colours throughout your room. Don’t limit yourself or your colour palette, but be clever with the little threads of pinks or blues or yellows that run throughout and guide the eye harmoniously around a room.
Apply some loose design rules
In styling a busy room, it’s likely that there will be lots of elements at play, and there are some loose design rules you can apply to create a bit of harmony.
Opposites tend to look good in a pair, especially when it comes to texture, shape and surface material – it’s why metal jugs look really striking full of flowers, and wooden floors can be so enlivened by a fluffy rug. Round decorative plates look wonderful hung next to framed prints, natural rattan lampshades suit shiny ceramic bases and so on. It’s easy to become a bit stalled while trying to create perfect pairings, so consider it a general suggestion rather than a hard and fast rule.
A useful tip when dealing with lots of pattern; two or more patterns that sit side by side should be different in scale. For instance, a dainty floral next to a small polka dot is a bit too much to take in, but either could sit happily with a big candy cane stripe.